Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary


This page was designed with CSS, and looks best in a CSS-aware browser—which, unfortunately, yours is not. However, the document should still be readable, though not presented in the most sophisticated manner.

The word "hallucinogen" refers to any substance that evokes visions. These chemical substances upset the normal workings of the mind, distorting reality or replacing reality with fantasies. Such substances have been used recreationally in modern times, but hallucinogens have long been considered a way to connect with the gods or other spirits. A number of plants that grow in the Chihuahuan Desert have been used, dating from far back in prehistory. One of the better known plants is the peyote, a cactus that grows near the Rio Grande from Big Bend in Texas southward into Mexico.

Many of the tribes native to Mexico were using peyote in religious ceremonies at the time of invasion by the Spanish. Despite attempts to wipe out what was considered blasphemous practices, some tribes of Mexico have continued use into the present. In the 1800s, the practice spread to tribes in the United States, and it was employed in both non-Christian and Christian religions. Its use continues here today as part of the rites of the Native American Church, continuing a tradition millennia old.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



Web Resources